Automated Process Wipes Out 11.164 Million California Justice Records, Freeing Some from ‘Paper Jail’  

By Ximena Cesa 

SACRAMENTO, CA- Newly published data from the California Dept of Justice reveals more 11,164,458 records relating to arrests and convictions were cleared between July 2022-December 2022—due to Assembly Bill 1076

Assembly Bill 1076 requires the CA DOJ to “automatically clear old arrests that never turned into charges and provides relief to people who completed all the conditions of their sentence, thereby expanding education, employment and housing opportunities for countless Californians.”

Christine DeBerry, executive director of The Prosecutors Alliance of California, explained “a criminal record hangs over people, hampering their access to employment and housing opportunities, primary factors that drive recidivism.”

DeBerry said the measure suggests the judicial system of California is attempting to offer those who do not re-offend a second chance without still being in “paper jail,” a term used to refer to written records tied to an individual’s name.

A study by Society for Human Resource Management found that “many employees and housing applicants are rejected solely based on having an arrest record on file…people with unsealed arrest records have a substantially increased chance of living in poverty, earning lower wages, with fewer educational opportunities.”

Authored by Phil Ting, a Democratic San Francisco assemblymember, the legislation “mandated that the state Department of Justice automatically clear records of arrests that did not result in a conviction after the statute of limitations had passed as well as convictions involving probation and jail once an offender’s sentence was completed.”

An exception to this crime is those who have violent crimes: “individuals sentenced to prison and anyone who had to register as a sex offender or who violated their probation is not eligible.”

Prior to Assembly Bill 1076, LA County District Attorney George Gascón argued the system disproportionately discriminated against minorities who are unaware of the resources due to them.

PAC states, “Eight million California residents had criminal convictions on their records that hampered their ability to [have a stable, secure and steady work lifestyle].” Of these eight million California residents, approximately two million of them were eligible for a conviction clearance.

DeBerry argues, “the [prior] system had taken away hope and opportunity.”

According to Gascón, “These were unnecessary barriers that make it more difficult to successfully reenter and break the cycle.”

Sponsored by The Prosecutors Alliance of California, the bill was able to be developed in 2021 where it was then put into effect on July 1, 2023, and led to the “clearance of millions of additional records” that would otherwise not be cleared. 

Research by the Policy Lab at the University of California agrees this clearance, by changing a feature in the bureaucratic system to automatic, seems to offer non-reoffenders the ability to start fresh without their history jeopardizing their progress. 

Prosecutors Alliance praises Ting for “leading the historic initiative and seeing that all eligible and impacted Californians would obtain the relief to which they are entitled,” noting the measure has now been adopted by prosecutors across the nation. 

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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